By now, most of you have heard that the Senate today passed HR 6331, the "Medicare Improvement for Patients and Providers Act of 2008" by a veto-proof 69-30 margin, with the great lion of health care, Teddy Kennedy, receiving a standing ovation from his colleagues on both sides of the aisle as he returned from his brain surgery to cast the decisive vote. Now that both chambers have passed this bill by veto-proof majorities, it goes to still-president Bush's desk. Will he sign it, or veto it and dare Congress to overrule his veto? Hard to say -- he's never been the compromising sort, and I suspect he might veto it just out of spite. But then, being over-ruled would be pretty humiliating, so he may allow it to become law to avoid that embarrassment. Either way, it looks like the iceberg has been staved off of the hull for another eighteen months.
- Of course, it freezes the 10.6% cut in Medicare payments to doctors for 2008, and provides a (paltry) 1.1% increase for 2009.
- PQRI is extended another two years and the bonus for participation is increased to 2%.
- Encourages the use of qualified e-prescribing systems through a variety of incentives.
- Reapplies budget neutrality adjustment for the 2007 RVU changes to the conversion factor, rather than work RVUs, effective 2009.